Most expats moving to Busan won't have to go through the process of finding their own apartment, as many employers provide their employees with suitable accommodation – this is especially true for expats teaching English in Busan. Those who want to rent their own accommodation will find that Busan is quite affordable compared to Seoul.
Due to the short-term nature of expat assignments, most people tend to rent rather than buy property. Rentals tend to move quickly in Busan, and expats should therefore research the processes involved in securing accommodation in the city ahead of time.
Areas and suburbs in Busan
Busan is home to 15 autonomous districts and more than 200 neighbourhoods, making for an interesting mix of areas and suburbs. Young and single expats will enjoy living in the trendy and hip suburbs of Centum City, Marine City, Nampo-dong and Gwangan-dong. These areas boast some of Busan's best cultural, shopping and lifestyle attractions.
Geumjeong-gu is surrounded by the Geumjeongsan Mountain and makes an excellent base for sports enthusiasts looking to engage in activities such as mountain biking, hiking, rock climbing and hang gliding regularly. The popular Haeundae-gu is a perfect mix of family-friendly living and countless attractions, including Haeundae Beach, that serve to attract tourists as well as expat families looking to keep their little ones entertained.
While many of Busan's neighbourhoods cater well for younger expats, families will also find suitable suburbs to call home in the city. Perched in western Busan, Sasang-gu is a nature wonderland filled with various forest parks and trails. It is ideal for expat families looking to escape city life while maintaining proximity to key business centres. Consisting only of islands, Yeongdo-gu is another family-friendly district in Busan that has plenty of opportunities for experiencing nature and exploring the city's history.
See Areas and Suburbs in Busan for more on the city's neighbourhoods.
Types of accommodation in Busan
Like in other Korean cities, most people in Busan live in apartments. Large multi-storey apartment blocks (apateu), as well as smaller apartment buildings (yeollip jutaek), can be found across the city.
Less popular forms of accommodation include individual houses (jutaek dandok), officetels and villas. Owing to space constraints, single-family homes and villas are hard to come by in Busan. Officetels are mixed-use properties that house residential and office spaces, and these usually have more modern amenities and security.
Finding accommodation in Busan
Expats who aren't provided accommodation by their employer may struggle to find a place to live in Busan. That said, using newspapers, such as the Korean Times or Korean Herald, expat social media groups or online property portals may be useful.
Although most real estate agents in Busan (budongsan junggaesa) don't speak English, they may still be the best option for expats to find accommodation. These agents act as mediators between the property owner and the tenant. Expats are more likely to find English-speaking agents in neighbourhoods popular with expats. Asking a Korean friend or colleague to assist in finding housing may also ease the process.
Renting accommodation in Busan
Making an application
Once expats have found a property that meets their requirements, the next step would be to sign a lease and secure the accommodation. It's essential for expats to ensure they have all their documents and fees ready, as the rental market in Busan is fast-moving. Newcomers must produce their residence card, proof of employment and passport to rent an apartment in Busan.
Leases, costs and fees
A typical lease in Busan is signed for one year. Renters have to give at least three months' notice if they want to move out. Tenants renting under the jeonse or banjeonse systems have to pay a large deposit (or 'key money') to secure a property. There is usually a minimum amount that needs to be paid, but the larger the deposit one puts down, the lower the rent. Any damages to the apartment will be paid for out of the deposit when moving out. The remainder of the deposit is returned to the tenant.
See Accommodation in South Korea for detailed information on the rental process in the country.
Utilities in Busan
Utilities aren't typically included in the monthly rent, so expats must include these costs in their monthly budget. These bills can be paid via bank transfer at the bank, ATM or through a mobile app. Some bills can even be paid at convenience stores.
Electricity and gas
South Korea's sole electricity provider, Korea Electricity Power Corporation (KEPCO), supplies the electricity in Busan. New arrivals can register an account with the entity by visiting their local office or their website or by mail. They will need to submit proof of identification to secure a connection, and the account should be registered within 24 hours. Expats can expect to receive a monthly bill. Some expats may be lucky enough to have their electricity included as part of their management fee and will, therefore, not need to register an account.
Busan City Gas is Busan's main gas supplier, and the company pumps natural gas to homes through pipes. Newcomers to Busan will need to supply the company with their residence card and proof of identification to get hooked to their building's supply. The company will send a service agent who will set up the connection, check for leaks and ensure that the line is safe.
When moving out, expats will need to call out a service agent again to disconnect the apartment. Depending on if their meter is indoors or outdoors, expats must send their monthly usage to the gas company, which will then send them a bill.
Most of Busan's drinking water comes from the Nakdong River, and the supply is managed by the Busan Metropolitan City Office of the Water Supply. Only expats moving into single-family homes will need to set up a water connection. Those moving into apartments, officetels or villas will likely have a connection ready and will simply need to change the bill to their name by calling or visiting their local waterworks office.
Bins and recycling
South Korea's rubbish disposal system mandates that all the rubbish that individuals and businesses produce be paid for and disposed of properly. Rubbish in Busan is separated into different coloured regulation bags. These regulation bags are available for purchase from supermarkets or convenience stores, and in more rural areas, they can be purchased from the local government office.
There are several waste categories in Korea, including general, recyclable and food waste. General waste typically includes items such as old clothing and shoes and used hygiene and sanitary products, while recyclable waste is usually plastic, paper, cans and bottles.
Food waste in Busan works differently than in the rest of Korea. The city uses reusable food waste bins rather than special plastic bags. The bins will usually be marked with a chip or sticker to indicate that the food waste removal fee has been paid. Larger apartment buildings will typically have freestanding food waste bins that are placed in a common area or included as part of a contraption that weighs food waste and calculates the cost accordingly. Smaller complexes may require residents to buy their own bins and chips.
For larger rubbish items such as furniture, expats living in large apartment complexes can liaise with their building management to pay for the removal and disposal of the waste. Those living in smaller buildings can contact their local district office, pay a fee and place the item in the designated collection area along with the payment sticker provided by the district office.
Rubbish collection days will differ in each of Busan's 15 districts, but the collection is usually done late in the evening. The general waste bags will also have collection days printed on them.
Busan has excellent telecommunications infrastructure and even offers a free Wi-Fi service at key tourist, cultural and sports facilities as well as the city's beaches. There are also several providers offering reliable and fast mobile and internet services.
See Keeping in Touch in South Korea for more information.
►Accommodation in South Korea gives more detailed information on renting in the country
"The monthly rent is reasonable, but it is the ‘key money’ that can cost a lot." Read more about Jenna's thoughts on living in Busan.
"Most foreign teachers do get accommodation through their schools which also saves a lot of money." Learn more about Azra's experiences living in Busan.
Are you an expat living in Busan?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Busan. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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